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The garbage disposal is a popular kitchen appliance used to shred food into small pieces that can pass down drains in kitchen sinks. It is usually electric and mounted right below the drain of a kitchen sink. Garbage disposals are helpful since they help reduce odors in kitchens and lower the risk of having clogged drains. Homeowners can use garbage disposals to grind food small enough so that it can easily pass through a home's plumbing, which means that food particles will less often be the cause of clogged drains. By reducing the risk of clogged drains, garbage disposals help save people money on solutions for unclogging drains such as a plumber, or the time and effort required to fix one’s own sink. Garbage disposals also help reduce odors in the kitchen, as they send food waste down the drain, versus a garbage can which holds food waste in a container where the food is more likely to emit unpleasant odors as it rots.
Over one third of US households have garbage disposal units installed in their kitchens. While the appliance is popular, garbage disposals are mainly used for breaking down fruit and vegetable scraps. The garbage disposal is versatile tool that can be used to break down many different food products:
- Small bones
- Meat scraps
- Coffee beans
Using a garbage disposal to perform these functions makes the item a more versatile appliance and adds to the list of foods that can be broken down by the item. Below is a list of 9 uses for a garbage disposal beyond breaking down food and vegetable scraps with descriptions of how to perform each function:
Garbage disposals can be used to break down small bones. Many people fear that bones are too hard for garbage disposals to handle. While this is true for the bones of larger animals, smaller bones such as chicken bones and fish bones can be broken down by garbage disposals. To grind small animal bones in a garbage disposal simply make sure that the garbage disposal is not over-filled when crushing the bones and turn the unit on until the bones are sufficiently crushed. Large bones may damage the garbage disposal unit, so it is important not to dispose of bones that are too large or too hard.
A second use of a garbage disposal is coffee grounds. Over 70% of Americans start their days with a fresh cup of hot coffee. Grinding one’s own beans is a great way to extract the maximum level of flavor and health benefits from coffee beans. After brewing their coffee, any person with a garbage disposal may dispose of their coffee grounds in their garbage disposal unit, provided that the quantity of coffee grounds being disposed of is not too large. Large quantities of coffee grounds should be avoided as the natural oils from the coffee can clog drain pipes.
The third use of a garbage disposal is grinding meat scraps. Provided that the meat is not too tough, and that it does not contain any thick or hard bones, most garbage disposals are more than capable of grinding meat scraps. It is important to note that the meat should be cut into small pieces before attempting to grind the scraps in a garbage disposal as large chunks of meat can damage the unit.
Garbage disposals can also be used to dispose of leftover pet food. Canned dog and cat food that is wet and soft can be safely disposed of in a garbage disposal. Using a garbage disposal to get rid of excess pet food can be very helpful for pet owners, as disposing of this food in a garbage can leaves an unpleasant and strong odor that easily permeates kitchen space.
Garbage disposals can be used to dispose of the peels and rinds of oranges, lemons, and limes. These foods benefit garbage disposals and the human operating the unit. The garbage disposal provides a convenient means for disposing of citrus peels, and the peels can help clean the garbage disposal by loosening up food trapped within the unit. The citrus peels also leave a pleasant odor in the garbage disposal unit, helping one maintain an overall clean kitchen
Garbage disposals can be cleaned and freshened with small pieces of ice. The ice can help move food particles that are stuck to the walls of the garbage disposal and also alleviate any odors that may be present inside of the unit. It is important to note that large amounts of any substance can be damaging to the garbage disposal, so ice should only be crushed by the unit in limited quantities.
The seventh use of a garbage disposal is for discarding soiled tea leaves. Many people drink loose leaf tea to extract the maximum level of flavor and health benefits from tea leaves. After preparing their tea, any person with a garbage disposal may dispose of their tea leaves in their garbage disposal unit, provided that the quantity of tea leaves being disposed of is not too large. Large quantities of tea should be avoided as the natural oils from the tea leaves can clog drain pipes.
Flowers and Houseplants
Garbage disposals are usually used to break down food, but garbage disposals can also break down other organic materials like houseplants. Over 50% of Americans surveyed said they dispose of dead flowers and houseplants in their garbage cans. This practice significantly increases the volume of trash accumulated by individuals. Dead flowers, their stems, and dead houseplants can all be disposed of in a garbage disposal. As with any organic waste product that is being processed by a garbage disposal, it is important not to fill the unit with too much of the plant material at one time, and all pieces being sent for grinding in the disposal should be small. Plants that secrete a lot of natural oils should not be sent down a garbage disposal, as the oil may lead to drain clogs.
The final use of a garbage disposal is bread. Small pieces of bread can be put in a garbage disposal for grinding. When disposing of bread in a garbage disposal, it is important that the pieces of bread are small since large chunks of bread can be damaging to the unit. It is also better if the bread is a bit stale, as pieces of bread that are too soft may be difficult for the garbage disposal to properly break down.
What are the common mistakes made when using garbage disposals?
There are many mistakes one can make when using a garbage disposal. This is because garbage disposals are connected to plumbing, and many foods have the potential to disrupt home plumbing by clogging drains. Below are some of the mistakes that should be avoided when using a garbage disposals:
- Fats and grease: oils, fats, and grease of any kind should never be put down a garbage disposal as they will congeal in drain pipes and lead to clogs.
- Dairy and cream: dairy products, creamy food products such as peanut butter, and other similar food items have a high fat content and like oils, should not be disposed of in a garbage disposal as the fat can congeal and lead to drain clogs.
- Cold Water: cold water should be used when rinsing food products while or after the garbage disposal is running. If hot water is used, fats and grease may break down from their solid state and thus the chance of a clogged drainpipe increases.
- Starchy foods: foods that are high in starch can become gummy with time and lead to drain clogs so should not be put down a garbage disposal.
- Fibrous foods: foods that are very fibrous like banana leaves and celery can be difficult for garbage disposals to process. Stringy fibers from these foods can remain after being processed by the garbage disposal and those fibers can clump up and clog drains.
- Eggshells: eggshells should not be sent down a garbage disposal as the shell membranes can stick to the side of the drain, creating buildup and increasing the chances of having a drain clog.
- Large food chunks: failure to cut foods into small pieces before sending food waste down the garbage disposal can clog the garbage disposal and damage the appliance.
- Nuts and shells: hard food products like nuts and shells cannot be processed in garbage disposals and may damage the appliance.
- Fruit pits: pits of fruits like avocados, plums, and mangoes should never be placed in garbage disposals. These food items are very hard and can damage garbage disposals.
- Seafood shells: small animal bones are okay for sending down garbage disposals, but the shells of shrimp and other seafood should be avoided. It is difficult for garbage disposals to break down seafood shells and they may leave an undesirable odor in the unit.
- Non-organic matter: garbage disposals should always be used to grind food into small bits so it can be sent down the drain. Small metals, plastics, and any other non-food and non-organic materials should never be sent down a garbage disposal.
- Blade sharpening: garbage disposals have a circular metal disc for a blade that is meant to be blunt, so sharpening it is not advisable as such alterations can cause the unit to fail.
- Processing time: it is important to let the garbage disposal run for a sufficient amount of time as to allow all the food placed within it to grind down to a suitable consistency. Failure to fully grind up the food can lead to a buildup of food and eventually clog the drain pipe.
What is the history of usage of garbage disposals?
The garbage disposal was invented in 1927 by John Hammes. The first garbage disposal was put to market in 1940 under the brand “InSinkErator.” In Sweden, garbage disposals are encouraged as they can help increase biogas production. The United States, though, is the country with the highest number of home garbage disposal units.
Do the use cases of a garbage disposal change based on type?
Yes, there are two major types of garbage disposals so the use case of a garbage disposal changes slightly depending on the unit type. These two types of garbage disposal are batch feed disposals and continuous feed disposals. Batch feed garbage disposals require the user to place a stopper over the unit in order for the appliance to run. Continuous feed disposals will work without the placement of a stopper and will grind waste continuously until the unit is turned off. Because continuous feed disposals are not covered, they can be dangerous if not used properly, as food unfit for garbage disposals may accidentally end up going down a continuous feed unit. Batch feed garbage disposals are also safer options than continuous feed disposals if there are children in a household, as the disposal is covered so the risk of injury from children placing their hands or fingers into the unit is lowered.
What is the difference between a garbage disposal and a trash compactor?
The main differences between garbage disposal and trash compactor is that garbage disposals are only meant to handle food waste, whereas trash compactors will handle all trash. Garbage disposals work by grinding up bits of food waste and sending it down the drain. Trash compactors compress all types of garbage so that the garbage takes up less space. Trash compactors therefore do not eliminate food waste from kitchens and thus may allow the food to leave an odor as it rots. A garbage disposal, by sending food waste down the drain eliminates the risk of rotting food particles leaving unpleasant odors.
Which garbage disposal is the best for grinding food waste?
The best garbage disposal for grinding food waste is the Waste King L-5000TC Batch Feed Garbage Disposal. It can be installed easily, has a sleek stainless steel body, a high-speed 3/4HP, 2700 RPM motor, and a respectable 32oz. grind chamber capacity. Choosing the best garbage disposal will depend on factors like motor efficiency, grind chamber capacity, and whether one prefers a batch feed or continuous feed unit.
What are the other kitchen tools with various use cases similar to a garbage disposal?
Kitchen tools with a use case similar to garbage disposals include trash cans. A trash can is similar to a garbage disposal to the extent that both are deposits for food waste. A trash can will accept a broader variety of food waste than a garbage disposal, but placing food in a trash can means that the waste will remain in the kitchen making it possible for odors to develop as food rots.